GESD Superintendent David Halloran, Kingsborough Elementary School teacher Melinda Harrington, GESD Elementary School Parent Teacher Association President Jessica Rodriguez and 11 members of the GHS Key Club took three school buses to the Capital Region Toys for Tots warehouse in Clifton Park to load and transport over 1,000 toys to Park Terrace Elementary School for distribution to 290 district students from age four to 11.
Harrington said the idea to have the district connect with the Toys for Tots program for distribution to students came about after she and Rodriguez met with Halloran to discuss the needs of families within the district.
“He appointed Jess and I as point people to organize the Toys for Tots, which to our knowledge hasn’t been done,” Harrington said on Tuesday. “I’ve been here 14 years and haven’t seen Toys for Tots done in the [school] district.”
A list of Medicaid eligible families with students in grades pre-K through five was generated by the superintendent’s office. The list was cross referenced with other local agencies and programs offering assistance to families for the holidays to prevent duplication and ensure that support is able to reach all of those in need.
“As a teacher I see a lot of poor families, it was just important for me this year that I be a part of this,” Harrington said. “It’s important for us to give back to our kids.”
Harrington said she also thought being involved in the school district’s distribution of the toys would be a good way for the Key Club to give back.
“I thought it would be a great experience for them and a good opportunity to help,” she said.
GHS Key Club President Austin Oare said he and the other members were happy to get involved.
“I think it’s great, every kid deserves the chance to get presents,” Oare said. “And it’s great for us too, because it opens our eyes to what kids have and some kids don’t have.”
Oare and the Key Club members helped load and unload the buses with bags of toys sorted by age and gender. The club also offered to help wrap the gifts before families pick them up early next week.
“I really enjoy helping out,” Oare said. “I joined Key Club, because volunteering is very important to the community and it’s a great thing to do.”
Oare said volunteering around the holidays is especially important, noting that the Key Club is also collecting donations of non-perishable food this week for area food pantries and will send cards to a veteran who’s Christmas wish this year is to receive birthday cards. They have also adopted a family with each club member donating a requested gift item to the family.
“It really helps the community, it allows us to give our community what they need,” Oare said.
Harrington and the GHS Key Club were recognized by the Board of Education during Monday’s meeting for organizing and supporting the distribution of toys from Capital Region Toys for Tots to students, but to Harrington the most important thing is knowing that students will have a happy holiday.
“I think it’s going to provide a smile on a lot of these kids’ faces Christmas morning,” she said.